As a marketer, landing page makeovers were one of my favorite things to do. There was nothing more satisfying than overhauling the product of honest effort in place of something methodically crafted to produce more consequential results. If only redesigning a landing page for full effect was as intuitive as knocking the glasses off a kid in a 90's teen makeover montage.

Fortunately, conversion optimization can be intuitive. You just have to grasp the right principles:

1. Know your audience.

The more you can tailor your marketing message to your specific audience, the likelier you are to convert. Before building your landing page, take some time to get to know your target customer. Do this by creating a user profile (also known as a customer persona). A user profile is an archetypal representation of your landing page's target audience. The profile answers basic demographic questions about your fictional customer and provides other key insights such goals, motivations, fears, and challenges. Below is a basic user profile for our own website:

2. Assume your audience knows nothing. 

Know your audience, but assume they know nothing. This means when the visitor lands on your landing page, usher them through the conversion funnel — regardless of the channel from which they came. (Even if your channel does an excellent job of making the pitch, give credence to the fact that marketing messages are more effective when they're repeated.)

Every day I'm surrounded by brilliant people with brilliant products/services to offer. From time to time, I also come across people who think sheer differentiation is enough to sell a product. These people tend to underestimate their need for marketing and operate under the pretense that everyone else is on their wavelength. (They're likely not.) Even the most intuitive of solutions require a strong introduction. Fortunately, there's a formula for this:

3. Assume you have 5 seconds of your audience's attention (tops).

Another cardinal rule of landing page design: once the visitor lands on your page, you have at most five seconds to garner their interest. The average American adult has an attention span of eight seconds. The most effective landing pages pass the 5-second rule. This means the visitor can be taken from the "awareness" to "action" stage within a 5-second scroll. 

  • When it comes to copy, cut out the clutter. Save what isn't integral to the introduction for a subpage.
  • Vary the sizing and weight of your typography to draw emphasis on vital messages.
  • Use images and multimedia tactfully.

4. Leverage social proof. 

Social proof refers to a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others represent the correct course of action for a given situation. "If everyone else is doing it, it must be the right thing to do." Here's how you can leverage social proof to further build desire for your product/service:

  • Showcase testimonials from people with whom your audience can relate to. (Bonus points if you can clinch an influencer.) 
  • Showcase your strength in numbers. (E.g. "Join our community of over 500,000 freelancers.")
  • Display logos of notable brands with which your brand has been associated. (E.g. in collaborations, articles in the press, etc.)

5. Make your call-to-action irresistible.

The last section of your landing page is perhaps its bread and butter. Everything we've discussed so far rides on the performance of this single feature. For effective calls-to-action, take note: Make the "action" so small, it's hard to resist and the "call" so big, it's hard to dismiss.

At this point, some of you may be unnerved. "You mean to tell me, after all this effort, I still can't present my main ask?" I hear you, hypothetical critic with anger issues. But you are of the mindset that your product is the greatest thing ever. Your visitor may be intrigued but is not yet a prospect. It's time to revisit the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini to pull another principle of persuasion, and that is the principle that human beings tend to follow through with choices they've already made. This is the reasoning behind confirmation bias and why online debates never get you anywhere. If you can get your potential customer to make the initial choice in your favor, they are more likely to follow suit with subsequent related choices.

Now, let me ask you: which would you rather do first?

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